Handling Fertility Hormones
Hormones are funny. Funny, odd, not funny ha ha. As if infertility and fertility treatment wasn’t stressful and emotional enough, then there are the hormones. Extra hormones. LOL. Really. Extra hormones. Wanting to be pregnant, wanting your baby in your arms, finding that you can’t get pregnant the old fashioned way, need to go to a doctor, manage the financial aspects, the medical treatment, the numerous doctor’s appointments, not enough to make you crazy? Ok, and then let’s add some extra hormones to the mix.
Clomid Stories - One of Many
Ok, I remember my first experience on Clomid. It was not pretty. Who knows if it was really the hormones or just an emotional reaction to them? Who cares? I turned from a fairly normal, slightly neurotic woman into a crazed, over reactive harpy. No one could say anything to me about anything without getting shrieked at. It was really ugly.
My best friend, Pamela, took the fertility medications and did not have that reaction. I wanted to kill her most of all. If I had to be that miserable, was it too much to ask that she be just as miserable? Wasn’t that what a best friend would reasonably do?
If you think I am exaggerating, think again. I’m not.
My good news? For me, when I went to the injectible medications (which I didn’t want to do), it was a huge relief. I can’t emphasize enough how huge a relief it was. I had none of the reactions that I had on Clomid and it was a relief beyond relief, for everyone involved.
Sit and talk with a group of women in fertility treatment and it runs the gamut. Some of us have no reactions to some of the medications, some of us have big reactions to others and still others of us barely notice any of it, including the injections.
Fertility Injections and Anticipation
What struck me most was the anticipation. There are very few of us who are used to giving injections. Still less of us who are used to giving ourselves the injections. So along with the fear of reaction to the medication, there was also the anticipation of actually giving ourselves a shot. I sat there and counted to ten. That worked very well. I can still hear my husband laughing though, because I counted to ten about two hundred times. The first time I gave myself a fertiity injection, it took me twenty five minutes. Twenty five minutes to give myself an injection with a needle about the diameter of a single strand of my hair.
It was easier the second time.
The anticipation of being on the medication is similar. You hear horror stories, really, horrible stories, on the internet, on message boards, even from friends who have gone through fertility treatment. The quieter stories are those without those reactions. Those of us who take the medication and have elevated emotionality. Like that phrase? Sounds simple. You don’t have to have a horror story to feel more emotional and edgy.
What’s the moral of the story? Anticipation can easily turn into anxiety. Fertility treatment isn’t easy, at all, either physically or emotionally. Expect that treatment may be challenging, give yourself and those around you a break.
How do you handle these treatments and situations? Any suggestions for the rest of us?
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Infertility Anxiety - Ideas from Our Community
I write when I’m anxious.
Sometimes I eat. (OK, often I eat when I’m anxious.)
I meditate when I’m anxious. Or create a mantra and repeat it.
Infertility and fertility treatment sometimes causes anxiety. To be fair, it also creates hopeful anticipation and lots and lots of joy when it works.
Taking medication, having to come in for ultrasounds, noticing changes in our bodies, having to be aware of scheduling--all can create some anxiety.
Tips for Anxiety
Here are a few suggestions from our Fertile Yoga ladies -- tips for anxiety -- on how to handle those feelings:
- Writing in a journal - stream of thought. Releasing it to paper or onto the computer will allow it to flow from your head out. Seeing it out there is often calming as you have given yourself a way to see it, outside yourself.
- Listening to music - plug in! Find something that is so unbelievably beautiful that you just can't help but dive in. Sing along. Tap your foot.
- A side note to music - DANCE. Enjoy your body. Do it privately if it makes you less self-conscious.
- Read. Oh yeah. Dive right into a book. A nice, juicy novel.
- Educate yourself. Make that stack of books on your nightstand books that will help you understand the infertility and fertility treatment process.
- Work out! Take a walk. Go to yoga.
- Consider a brand new style of therapy. Profane therapy. Swearing evidently can help. Let loose. Then let yourself laugh.
- Movies - there are a lot of them coming out right about now. George Clooney. Need I say more?
Thank you Fertile Yoga Ladies for all these suggestions.
Any other ideas for managing anxiety?
Let me know. I'll post them here. Anonymously, if you like.
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Weathering Winter Storms
Okay, I’m obsessed with the weather. Not only obsessed with the weather itself but also obsessed with making analogies between weather and life. I love storms!
And then I usually do make the connections with understanding infertility. Infertility, weather and life. How much free will, how much a force of nature. How much are we just on for the ride? I have noticed more than occasionally that the more that I want something, or rather, the more that I try to force something, the more challenging it becomes.
I love the weather because it reminds me that my life would not be perfect if I were more organized. My life would be more orderly if I were more organized, but it would not be perfect. Regardless of how carefully I had set up my day, all my plans were blown away by the snow storm we are experiencing. It is a snowstorm that makes us believe the meteorologists, even when they are so often wrong. They may be right about this one.
The Infertility Reminder
And yes, it reminds me of infertility. Carefully, well organized plans. The first plan, for most of us, is to have a partner that we love that we want to have a child with. Any of you out there remember how challenging that can be? If not, speak to one of your single friends, they will be able to remind you.
We women need to find that partner earlier rather than later to avoid certain fertility problems. Our wisdom allows us to make better choices as we get older, in terms of partners, but getting older does not make it easier to have babies. That feels like a heart wrenching choice and some of us choose to become single parents, rather than wait for the partner who we would like to parent with.
Going on with our well laid plans. How many of us thought we’d be seeing a medical team to become pregnant? Some of us did absolutely everything we could, for years, to avoid becoming pregnant! Who expected that when we wanted to, it would be so difficult? Whether because we waited until we found a partner, waited until we were more financially secure or didn’t wait at all, it’s a shock to find out that medical help is the way our babies will be created. Not in a loving, intimate setting, but in a doctor's office. And yes, how lucky did I feel that there were doctors out there that could help, even if it wasn’t in my original plan.
I can still remember listening to one of my friends talk about planning her children by what astrological sign she wanted them to be. Yes, really. Talk about family planning. The most odious thing was that it worked for her. She has an Aquarius, Taurus and a Libra. Of course, over and over again, life has interrupted her carefully laid plans, in the way that life does.
And if life hasn’t done it, we always have the weather.
Best wishes for the storm . . .
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Coping With Infertility
Our CT infertility program has been getting a lot of mail lately.
A lot of baby announcements.
Reminders of what we do and why we do it.
To create loving families.
To add to loving families.
For those of us still waiting, we wonder.
Will I be the one who doesn’t conceive.
Will I be the one who doesn’t have my baby.
Will I alone, be the only one who doesn’t have my family?
Will I be the patient that never leaves this infertility program?
Because the hard part is that there are no guarantees.
No one will say, “yes, after 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, you will have a baby”.
So we wait.
We wait with you.
We talk with you, laugh with you, cry with you.
We wait together with you.
You are not alone.
We know it’s hard.
No one wants to be the one left without a baby.
We’re here, with you.
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Thanksgiving thoughts, during the days before the holiday.
Preparations are in full swing. Travel arrangements are also being commenced or coordinated, whether driving, flying or picking people up.
Cooking or meal planning has started and shopping for ingredients is obvious when you walk into any grocery store.
Expectations are high. We are to be thankful, grateful, happy, content.
Uh, huh. Except for when we're not.
Infertility and Gratitude
Today's blog is about infertility and gratitude and thanksgiving.
So many of us experiencing infertility do feel gratitude about so many things. I know this because I get to speak to so many of you.
Here's what I've heard lately, from you, about gratitude and thanksgiving, in your voices:
- "I'm grateful for the strength and foundation of my marriage"
- "I'm grateful for the support and help my friends have given me"
- "Every single day, I find things that bring me joy"
- "I'm so thankful for my job, which is so fulfilling"
- "The support that I feel from my family holds me up"
- "How interesting to see where support comes from, unexpected people who understand what I'm going through"
- "I love noticing the things that make other people smile"
- "Music brings me joy, even on the worst days"
- "Knowing that my husband is there for me, means everything"
- "I know that a child will enter my life, one way or another"
- "My faith sustains me"
- "I'm so grateful for the medical care and attention that I get from my doctors and medical staff"
- "Infertility has deepened many relationships for me, including the one with myself. Who knew I had the strength to go through fertility treatment, with shots, and medication and more?
Just little tidbits that I have gotten from all of you. You may recognize your words or your sentiments. Or you may be inspired by someone else's words and thoughts.
Thanksgiving is a time of hope and expectation.
That can be a lot tougher to create than a Thanksgiving dinner.
Would you please tell me what you're grateful for this Thanksgiving?
Lisa Rosenthal's Google+
Struggling with Infertility
A common scenario when we are struggling with infertility is that we feel alone; we feel that no one truly understands the magnitude of what we are going through. We withdraw from friends and family because their concern, although well meaning, is frequently hurtful or intrusive. Even when our friends and family say precisely the right thing, at the right time and drop the subject the moment that you ask them to, we still experience pain. It makes holidays, get togethers, even simple conversations a strain where once it was easy and comfortable.
Peer Support Group Privileges
I feel honored to help facilitate a peer support group where we laugh, cry, help, support and educate one another. I’m very thankful and grateful for this group of women who show up, lay it on the line and tell it like it is. Relationships are formed and valuable bonds are made in these groups. Why can we tell strangers things that we cringe about sharing with those who love us?
Simple, really. We understand. We get it. Who else really does get what it’s like to go to friends for an evening and have to disappear into the bathroom? Together, I mean, your partner and yourself. LOL. Who else understands that it makes you want to laugh and cry at the same time? Who else understands that there’s a part of you that hopes your friends think that you are having hot sex in the bathroom, not getting a shot in your derriere? Who else understands that your vacation is being postponed because you’re in the middle of a cycle? Who else understands what it’s like to get one more birth announcement, one more whispered “I’m pregnant”? Who else understands our younger sisters conceiving and having children and our hearts full for them and breaking for ourselves?
Cultivating Gratitude: Make Your Own List
So for those of us who get it, here’s my list of things that infertility makes me grateful for, in case feeling grateful feels like a really big stretch, or even impossible:
- Ovulating each month
- Front desk person at your fertility clinic smiling at you
- Getting your period regularly
- Have insurance coverage for fertility treatment
- Have veins that cooperate in getting blood drawn
- Struggling with PCOS and finding ways to minimize the impact
- Getting a positive pregnancy test
- Able to face the emotional roller coaster that is infertility treatment
- Fertile Yoga
- Are healthy and young enough to be able to consider fertility treatment
- Producing enough follicles to go through In Vitro Fertilization
- Able to do IUI’s (Intra uterine inseminations) with a high probability of success
- Have the financial resources to continue treatment even without insurance coverage
- Professional therapists who have the ability to make us see things differently, espcially our feelings
- Nurses who are approachable and compassionate
- A fertility program where you are treated as a whole person and not a walking diagnosis
- Getting your period after three or four months
- Ultrasound showing a heartbeat
- A painless transfer
- A nutritionist that is not judgemental, but really really helpful
- A retrieval that goes smoothly and easily
- Live in a day and age where third party reproductive technology is available
- Can compare one fertility specialist (board certified reproductive endocrinologist) to another and pick one who is the best fit
- Having access to complementary programs that enhance your chances of conception
- Not strangling your friend/family member/co-worker/boss/partner/waitress who asks yet again when you are going to have a baby
- Live in a state where it’s mandated that infertility is covered by insurance
- Passion tea
- Able to turn to a partner for help and support
- Ultrasound showing a sac
- Feeling hope that this time the cycle will work and there will be a baby at the end of the rainbow
What goes on your list? Share your ideas in the comments and we'll build a new list together. I’m grateful to you, my community, my group who gets it--for reading, for commenting, for caring.
Lisa Rosenthal's Google+
Bald Eagles, Fragile Eggs and Infertility
I remember vividly one weekend I spent with family a few years ago. Eating, talking, squabbling interspersed with racing outside, quietly, to gaze at bald eagles. There were three of them, two immature, and one with a gleaming white feathered head. I have never seen a bald eagle outside of captivity, although when in areas where they are reported to be, I have looked and hoped.
Photo: LimarieC, Flickr Creative Commons
Here are some bald eagle facts: They have a wing span of up to seven feet. They are almost four feet tall. Their talons and beaks are intense and rather scary to look at. When they perch in a tree and look at you, it's intimidating, especially knowing that they can see the pores in your skin, their eyesight is that good. They don't look like anything else. If you see a bird that big, with a white head, it's the only bird that it can be. The noises of other birds change when they are around. First it gets very quiet, and then it gets very strident. It's not the usual bird chatter that you hear; there truly is a sense of urgency in it.
I think the single most fascinating fact that I learned this weekend was how much the birds weigh. We had a bird expert among us who knew but before he told us, we all guessed. The highest guess was forty-five pounds. It turns out that a full grown eagle, with a seven foot wing span, sitting almost four feet tall weighs about eight to fourteen pounds. Probably some of you knew that even a bird that large would weight very little, given the whole flying thing -- hollow bones, lots of feathers and all. I was astounded that a bird so majestic, so powerful, so intimidating would weigh so little. When we had the rare pleasure of seeing one of the younger birds actually snatch a fish out of the water and then have the other young bird grab it away, you could feel the speed, power, determination and utter strength of this bird.
Understanding Infertility and the Power of Possibility
So of course it made me think about you. About understanding infertility. About power, strength and possibility in something that weighs so little. About our eggs, our embryos, our hopes. And for those of us who "only" have one or two follicles or "only" retrieve one or two eggs, or "only" have one or two embryos fertilize, or "only" have one or two embryos that mature to day five.
While I was thinking about this I recalled the conversation during the afternoon of how our bald eagle population went into a serious, dangerous decline for a long time, partly due to the use of DDT which made their eggs so fragile that babies were much less frequently hatched. When the numbers of eagles were declining, each one was important to the continuation of the species. That is still true. They had help, our help, we banned DDT, we passed laws that made it illegal to disturb their nesting area. We helped.
Doesn't each of us deserve the same help?
I came home and looked up some information about bald eagles and found out that they are one of the few species who have struggled and succeeded in being upgraded from the endangered to the threatened list. There are an estimated 70,000 bald eagles in the world.
I had the pleasure of watching three of them that weekend and thinking of our own strength.
Lisa Rosenthal's Google+
Khloe Kardashian and Infertility
Khloe Kardashian doesn't have infertility.
She's been trying to conceive for three-and-a-half years and hasn't become pregnant. (Definition of infertility is inability to conceive after properly timed sexual intercourse in the time period of one year.)
She is saying that her hormones and timing have been off and that's why it hasn't happened.
Did you ever hear the expression, "If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck"?
Photo: Yusuf C. Flickr Creative Commons
Consider adding these, "If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, eats like a duck, smells like a duck, swims like a duck, sleeps like a duck, maybe, just maybe it's a duck".
I truly do not mean to be flippant. We all come to things in our own time. More than that, none of us likes to be labeled. And certainly not by someone else.
So Khloe Kardashian doesn't consider herself infertile.
And she's certainly not asking my advice or opinion on if she is or isn't infertile.
Luckily, regardless of what she says or doesn't say in the media, she can get help if she needs it. She can see a board-certified reproductive endocrinologist and figure out if there is a problem and then formulate a course of treatment if it's indicated.
She can decide that she does not have infertility and go through fertility treatment and get pregnant and have a baby.
Then will she be right? That she didn't have infertility and all she needed was a little help?
Maybe this is a great model to follow.
Subfertility: Definitions and Labels
I know that Dr. Mark Leondires, Medical Director for RMACT (Reproductive Medicine Associates of CT) talks a lot about subfertility, rather than infertility. And that so much of subfertility is something that can be overcome. Hence why so many women who are labeled infertile end up conceiving, typically with fertility treatment.
And maybe that's really the case, that we are subfertile, rather than infertile. Because after all if we were infertile, we wouldn't get pregnant and have children.
Are we then cured of infertility because we've had children?
What if we want to have a second child and need fertility treatment, even IVF, do we become infertile again? And are we then not infertile if we become pregnant again?
I'm starting to think Khloe has the right idea. Go with she's not infertile. That she's fertile and all she or any of us need, is help in bringing it out. I like that a lot. The term infertility implies a state of being that cannot be changed. And yet, so often, with the right help from a good fertility program, it does change. We become pregnant and leave infertility behind us. At least until next time we decide to have a baby.
How about this?
I like it. It's almost as if your fertility is hiding, just waiting to be asked nicely to come out. Whether it's medications that you need, or IUI's (intrauterine inseminations) or IVF (in vitro fertilization) or more, your fertility is there, laying wait until the right combination is offered to allow it to blossom.
So, yes, maybe fertility challenged.
Whatever you want to call it, a fertility consultation and treatment is a great idea if you haven't gotten pregnant in over a year if you are thirty-five or under. Fertility treatment is a great idea if you are thirty-five and over and have tried to conceive for six months.
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Fertility Counselor Hosts Couples Evening on April 11
Mars and Venus on the Fertility Journey
By Lisa Tuttle
Last night I ran into a couple that I worked with over 7 years ago, when they were patients at RMACT. After exchanging hugs and updates about the present ages and activities of the couple's “miracle babies”, they explained that they were heading out for a “date night”, and they walked away looking as happy as newlyweds.
How thrilling it was to see how far this couple had come from the first time I met them! Part of what I remember most about working with them is that this couple had clearly loved one another so much, and still they had struggled in their efforts to understand and support one another through their fertility journey. It was so sad for them that they were not “on the same page” during that very difficult time; not able to comfort each other as easily as they wanted to, and not coping in the same ways. They participated in the first couple’s workshop that I ever offered at RMACT, and last night they reminded me of how helpful and reassuring that workshop had been for them. How it had allowed them to complete their family-building journey feeling much more connected and comforted by one another.
Infertility Affects Men and Women Differently
One of the sad truths about infertility is that it affects men and women quite differently. At exactly the time that couples could REALLY use each other’s support and understanding the most for infertility, they may find that they are not “getting” each other. I have run support groups for women and support groups for men, and I can tell you that the conversation and concerns of the two groups are quite different! Both groups are experiencing real distress, but the sources of their distress are not the same. For example, women who are struggling to get pregnant are more likely to be preoccupied with the demands of their fertility treatment, the difficulty of being surrounded by fertile friends and co-workers, and fear that treatment will never work. They are more likely to be depressed and anxious. On the other hand, men in this situation tend to be more optimistic that treatment will work, hence they are less anxious and depressed. They tend to be primarily worried about their wives, feeling helpless to make her feel better, feeling guilty for the treatments that she has to endure, and they lament how their lives have been derailed by the process. They often don’t feel the social strain and jealousy of infertility because “pregnancy” and “babies” do not dominate male conversations in the same way that they do for women, so they may not feel the same need to withdraw socially as their wives feel.
To make matters worse, the ways that men and women cope with the stress can be completely opposite…. What is helpful for one partner might actually be hurtful to the other. For example, a wife might find relief in talking about her infertility and the related emotional pain at great length, whereas a husband might find that these conversations only make him feel worse. So no matter how much the husband and wives love each other, and no matter how much they want to “be there” for their spouse, they may find it nearly impossible to get it right.
At these times, it is really helpful for couples to be CLEAR about why this disconnect happens, and how normal it is. It is helpful for men to hear that their wives reactions are “normal”, and for the women to hear that their husbands’ ways of coping are “normal”… so that both sides can be more accepting, and ultimately be more empathetic. It helps couples to feel less upset about the “disconnect”, and to know that it’s not a sign of a bigger problem in their marriage. It helps for men and women to understand why the opposite sex is acting and feeling the way they are, rather than trying to decide which of them is “right”.
A Fertility Seminar for Couples
I’m excited to be offering another couples workshop at RMACT on April 11th, as part of our “A Fertility Seminar for Couples” evening. The fertility journey can be so difficult, but a little understanding can go a long way toward helping couples feel more connected as they travel the road to parenthood… together.
A Former Fertile Yoga Student and Mother Gives Back to Those Struggling With Infertility
There are gifts to be had, even while dealing with infertility. One is learning patience.
One is finding out the strength behind your own commitment to creating your family.
Another could be finding the depth of your love for your partner or spouse.
In Fertile Yoga last week, the gifts were much more specific and concrete.
Once Pregnant, a Former Student Gives Back to the Community
One of our former Fertile Yoga student and RMACT patient, who was successful in becoming pregnant, wanted to give something back to the community. Wanted to offer a gift of hope, encouragement, love and compassion.
She came to me, wanting to know my ideas on a gift that she could give. We went back and forth with ideas, nothing being quite right. Lots of lovely ideas, but not quite what she was looking for; nothing that touched her heart or expressed what she wanted to say to those still struggling.
She and I didn't talk a lot about this. So I don't really know, beyond the superficial, why she wanted to give a gift to the current Fertile Yoga students. I know what she said. I elaborated what she said, in my own mind; to her offering support to those still struggling with infertility. For holding space, having been successful, for those who have not been yet.
The gift she discovered to share, was perfect. Absolutely perfect. I presented them to the class in Norwalk and they were immediately opened and placed on their wrists. They were touched. I was touched. Deep down in our hearts.
A Big Thanks to Our Former Fertile Yoga Student!
Thank you to our former Fertile Yoga student, who took a look behind her and remembered those women still in fertility treatment. Who remembered what it was like to feel fear, jealousy and not know if the outcome would be a baby and the family of our dreams.
The gifts were lovely but not nearly as lovely as simply being remembered. Being thought of; being cared for. That was the true gift.
"I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples." — Mother Teresa
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